What if a young child, full of energy, could take that same energy and convert it into power? At Millennia Gardens Elementary in Orlando, FL, that is exactly what’s happening! Under the instruction of their teacher, Dawn Chehab, students at Millenia Gardens spend extra time in their school’s “Eco Club” by learning about nutrition, conserving water, and saving electricity through various green initiatives. The Eco Club, organized by Chehab and her colleagues, serves as an extension of the classroom to focus on extensive projects that cannot be completed during the normal school day.

Students Grow Their Own Food

With the help of Hydro-Stacker™, Ms. Chehab and her students have installed over fifty of the units in the school’s outdoor playground area. Each unit occupies only four square feet, uses less water, and makes less waste according to the Hydro-Stacker™ website. Fruit and veggie production with a Hydro-Stacker™unit is typically three to five times higher than a traditional soil farm would be able to produce. Students grow a variety of fruits and vegetables including strawberries, cucumbers, romaine lettuce and more. Additional greens are used to feed local manatees who are being rehabilitated.

Energy Provided By Kid Power

Students raised the money for a special, bike-powered system to fuel their hydroponic garden through energy. The system, called the pedal-a-watt, is used to power the pumps and timers that keep the garden growing strong, while simultaneously saving big on the school’s electricity bill. The bike system works by converting the energy to electricity, where it is stored in batteries that are used to power the pumps and timers. In addition to its energy-saving benefit, the bikes keep the kids active and moving. The mechanical energy created by the bikes creates around 600 watts of electricity, per bike, per hour! Just three minutes of biking is enough energy to power an LED light strip for two full days!

No Wasted Effort

In addition to hydroponic growing, being on their own power grid, and helping feed manatees, Millennia Gardens Elementary is one of the only schools that has taken the proper steps to recycle their food waste. This will translate into saving nearly 4,000 pounds of trash per year and will assist in the school saving over $1,000 in trash services per month.

Ms. Chehab hasn’t done it alone. Known for her thinking outside the box, she has assembled a group of other supportive teachers to help her execute her green goals quickly and effectively. Joshua Garrett is Chehab’s right hand man and is responsible for making many ideas come to life. Through the support of multiple local companies and grants, the club continues to innovate and create unique opportunities for students to learn important earth-saving skills and practices. We found Ms. Chehab through our relationship with Whole Foods Market Orlando Stores, who frequently supports her initiatives.

Teachers and students like this will help to save our planet, one bike, one garden, one compost pile…at a time. By investing in the education of our children, we are investing in our future. Growing sustainable, nutrient-dense food is low-cost, easy to do, and increases the chances of kids eating the food they grow. Keep up the great work Millenia Gardens Elementary!


Cory Warren
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